Chickens Eat Pasta by @ClarePedrick #audiobook #guestpost #giveaway @collmacmahon

Chickens Eat Pasta: Escape to Umbria by [Pedrick, Clare]

I’ve got a lovely guest post for you today from Clare Pedrick, author of Chickens Eat Pasta which I’m sure you’ll agree is a most intriguing title! In the post she tells about the process of making the book into an audiobook, narrated by her friend, Colleen Macmahon. Colleen also painted the beautiful picture used on the cover of the book. (You can see more of Colleen’s work and more on her website

Guest post

I have always loved listening to audiobooks, and my own collection contains quite an eclectic mix, including The Iliad, Harry Potter and a spellbinding edition of Dickens’ Hard Times, which we used to play over and over again on the long journey from Rome to Greece on our annual family holiday. So when Colleen MacMahon suggested doing an audio version of my own book, Chickens Eat Pasta, I immediately agreed. I should explain that Colleen has been involved in my book from the outset. She was the first person I showed the proofs to, as she is an award-winning author in her own right. And since she is also a very accomplished artist, I asked her to paint the cover, which is actually adapted from a gorgeous watercolour that she did for me when she first came to visit my house in Umbria. This old house is the setting for the book, which tells the story of how I bought the property as a ruin when I was 26-years-old, and all the adventures that I had along the way, including the love story with a man I met in the remote hill village that became my new home.

Clare and house
Clare and her house

Colleen’s idea was actually for me to narrate the book, but it was obvious to me that she was the right person to take on the job, since one of her many talents is that of an actress. I was thrilled when she accepted, not least as it was a symbolic moment in a wonderful friendship that had started when we used to sit next to each other as schoolgirls, taking it in turn to write a stanza of a never-ending epic poem in our jotters, when we should have been listening to the Maths teacher. That budding literary partnership came to a sad and sudden end when Colleen moved away to drama school. We reconnected a few years ago, via Friends Reunited, and more or less took up where we had left off, so doing the audiobook together has been a very enjoyable experience, though it has also involved a great deal of hard work, especially for Colleen.   

Colleen MacMahon

We chose to publish the audiobook on Audible, which is part of Amazon, and is quite an easy-to-use platform, which enables authors and narrators to hook up, if they don’t already have someone in mind as we did. As an author, you can ask for auditions from prospective narrators, and also agree on a payment system, either offering a one-off fee or splitting the royalties, though it comes as no surprise that Audible creams off the lion’s share. I was lucky in that Colleen’s partner, who is a musician and very competent in technical matters, handled the production side, rigging up a professionally equipped studio space so that the end product would be really top quality.

I know Colleen was concerned about pronouncing some of the Italian names and words in the book, but she needn’t have been, because with a little voice coaching from me – delivered by voicemail on WhatsApp which was quite effective – she has done a fantastic job. It probably helped that she speaks some Spanish, and also that she’s been out to my house in Umbria on a number of occasions, so she is familiar with the area, and has even met some of the characters, including the memorable Ercolino who in a sense steals the show in the book. I had been slightly nervous that he might not like the way I portrayed him, and it was with some trepidation that I took him a copy soon after the paperback was published. But luckily he was delighted and read the whole thing in two days, telephoning me when he had finished the last page to tell me how much he had enjoyed it. Very sadly he died a few weeks before the audiobook version came out, but I’m quite sure he would have approved of the way Colleen narrated him and all the other characters, and so it must be said, am I.

Chickens Eat Pasta is published by Troubadour in all formats. You can order a copy from the following places: 

Troubador Publishers  (Print and ebook)

Amazon UK (Print)
Amazon UK (Ebook)

You can listen to a sample of the audiobook
Audible UK   /   Audible US

If you like the sound of the book, you have the opportunity to win an audio copy of it by entering my giveaway. Click the link below to enter. You can enter up to midnight (BST) on Saturday 28th April and I’ll contact the winner within 24 hours.

Click here to enter the giveaway

Remember you can leave reviews on Audible in the same way as you can leave reviews on Amazon/GoodReads etc. Authors love reviews so if you have read of listened to this book and enjoyed it, take a moment to leave a line or two to let other people know what you thought about the book.





#Extract from The Girl on the Beach by Morton S Gray @ChocLitUK @MortonSGray

The Girl on the Beach: A gripping suspense that you won't want to put down (Borteen Secrets Book 1) by [Gray, Morton S]

I have a treat for you today in the form of an extract from Morton S Gray’s latest novel, The Girl on the Beach. It’s available for Kindle and has just been published in paperback too. You’ll also find out a little about her forthcoming novel, The Truth Lies Buried, near the bottom of the post.

About The Girl on the Beach:

Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.

For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …

But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.


You can find buying links for the book here: The Girl on the Beach Now read on for an extract.


As she turned into the alleyway, Ellie jumped out of her skin when Nick lurched out of the shadows.

‘Nick Crossten you scared me half to death.’

‘Sorry, Miss Golden.’ He looked even scruffier than normal, probably because he was wearing home clothes and not school uniform.

‘Were you looking at my pictures?’

‘Not exactly. Could I come inside?’ He kept looking around him, as if he expected someone else to jump out of the shadows too.

‘Of course. You can help me unload the kiln. I put a batch of new pots in to fire three nights ago. The kiln should be cool by now. They’re some of the pots I want to decorate and sell for Christmas and you can be the first to have a look at them.’

She was puzzled that Nick didn’t show any of his usual enthusiasm. He came through into the gallery after her, pausing to let her pick up the post and shut the door. She stuffed the three envelopes into her bag and went to walk through into the studio room.

‘Miss, can you lock the door behind us please?’

Ellie was surprised and wary, but did as he asked. ‘Are you okay, Nick? Is something wrong? Is someone following you?’

He seemed happier when they were out of sight of the windows at the front of the shop.

‘No, no one is following me, but I came to tell you that I think someone is following you.’

Ellie felt a cold shiver snake up her spine.

‘Following me? Who?’

‘A man. I’ve seen him outside the gallery and outside school after art class. He’s been following you.’

‘Are you sure, Nick?’

He nodded his head, with a look more serious than any expression she had ever seen on his thin face.

Touched by Nick’s concern, rattled by what he had said, but sure there must be some rational explanation, Ellie fought down a sudden vision of the letter about Rushton’s release from prison.

Surely not.

To cover her alarm, she led Nick into the back yard and opened the door to the kiln room. Out of habit, she put a hand on the side of the kiln to make sure it had cooled.

‘Did you see what I did first?’ She said, with a tone that sounded falsely bright even to her own ears. ‘If you work with a kiln, you must always make sure it’s stone-cold before you open it. If it isn’t, the sudden change of temperature can ruin your work, besides burning you badly if it’s still hot. These babies should be cooked. Oh, I do hope they’re nice. You never truly know until they come out of the kiln safely.’

Nick was not a young man to be fobbed off. ‘Aren’t you worried about this man following you?’

‘I’m determined not to be unnerved. I’m sure there must be a simple explanation. Thank you, by the way, for warning me. It is very good of you to look out for me.’

‘You’ve been very kind to me and I wouldn’t want anyone to hurt you.’

‘Why do you think anyone would want to hurt me?’

The boy shrugged.

Ellie felt shaken by his interpretation of why a man would be following her, but tried not to worry Nick further by any reaction to his words. She refused to act in haste. If this man was following her, she could easily make a mistake and fall into his hands by panicking.

His hands.

She’d already given this unknown stalker Rushton’s face.


Morton S. Gray

Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Her debut novel ‘The Girl on the Beach’ was published as an ebook in January 2017, after she won The Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon. This book is available as a paperback from 10 April 2018.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit ‘The Truth Lies Buried’ is published as an eBook on 1 May 2018. Another romantic suspense novel, the book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past.

Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified clinical hypnotherapist and Reiki master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

Website –

Twitter – @MortonSGray

Facebook Page  – Morton S Gray Author


 The Truth Lies Buried (Choc Lit) (Borteen Secrets Book 2) by [Gray, Morton S]


Morton’s new book in the Borteen Secret series will be released as an ebook in May. Here’s a little bit more about The Truth Lies Buried …

Two children in a police waiting room, two distressed mothers, a memory only half remembered …

When Jenny Simpson returns to the seaside town of Borteen, her childhood home, it’s for a less than happy reason. But it’s also a chance for her to start again.

A new job leads to her working for Carver Rodgers, a man who lives alone in a house that looks like it comes from the pages of a fairy tale – until you see the disaster zone inside …

As Jenny gets to know Carver she begins to unravel the sadness that has led to his chaotic existence. Gradually they realise they have something in common that is impossible to ignore – and it all links back to a meeting at a police station many years before.

Could the truth lie just beneath their feet?

Pre-order link for ‘The Truth Lies Buried’ here: The Truth Lies Buried


#TenThings about #author Tana Collins @bloodhoundbook @tanacollins7 #blogblitz


I’m very pleased to welcome Tana Collins today as part of the blog blitz for her latest novel Mark of the Devil.  Mark of the Devil is the third in her series featuring Inspector Jim Carruthers. The first thing you need to know about Tana is that she got so carried away with her ten things that she has actually written thirteen! I’ll let her off for her enthusiasm though. 

Profile Picture 2017

  1. A misplaced copy of Peter Robinson’s novel, In a Dry Season, discovered in a charity shop in Edinburgh, first got me reading crime fiction. I loved that book so much I bought every novel Robinson had ever written in the DCI Banks series. What I particularly love about that series is Robinson’s characterisation and his wonderful sense of place.  The books are set in Yorkshire which is where I was born which was a bonus.
  2. At some point I started wondering if I too had a crime novel in me. Having always been a scribbler I started writing. I woke up in the middle of the night with a title and a dramatic opening scene of a brutal murder of a young man in a coastal town and my debut novel, Robbing the Dead was born! However, at 43,000 words my work flagged and I ran out of steam. I needed some help. My big chance came in that summer of 2011. I found out Robinson was flying over from Canada to give a week long crime writing course at the University of Tallinn. I booked the course, my flights and accommodation and flew to Estonia. It literally changed my life. The following year I went on an Arvon Foundation course up near Inverness, given by both Peter Robinson and Karen Campbell, where I met fellow writers Sarah Ward and Alison Baillie who have both been immensely helpful. Robbing the Dead (Inspector Jim Carruthers Book 1) by [Collins, Tana]
  3. I wrote three novels in my own series before approaching publishing companies. I wanted to set the series in the East Neuk of Fife as I’d gone to university at St Andrews and found the East Neuk a fascinating place with its wee coastal towns and interesting history. It was a difficult decision but I decided to fictionalise St Andrews and it becomes Castletown – the reason being I wanted to grow the town and have more creative license over the location. Those who are familiar with St Andrews will definitely recognise it in Castletown though.
  4. In October 2016 I was over the moon to be offered a three book publishing deal with Bloodhound Books. I could hardly believe it when my debut novel, Robbing the Dead, became an Amazon Number One besteller for Scottish crime fiction. The second novel, Care to Die, also managed to hit the Top 10. I am convinced I have Peter Robinson’s Estonian course to thank for the fact I kept writing at a time when my work-in-progress was flagging. Care to Die (Inspector Jim Carruthers Book 2) by [Collins, Tana]
  5. I was so fascinated by the political history of Estonia it becomes part of the backdrop of my third and current novel, Mark of the Devil.  Sadly, part of the inspiration for Mark of the Devil was based on the true story of the terrible theft of an antique grandfather clock that happened to my Mum in East Sussex over a decade ago.  Five masked men broke in to her house in the middle of the night when she was home which must have been terrifying. CID were involved and even a medium came forward to try to help. Sadly the clock was never recovered and the  medium was of no help whatsoever.
  6. People often ask me what aspects of crime writing I found most difficult when I first started to write and I have to say it was characterisation. It was really tricky getting the characters right and making them feel authentic.
  7. When we first meet our lead detective, inspector Jim Carruthers, he’s broken hearted as he’s been dumped by his wife who has moved back to her parents in Fife. In Robbing the Dead, Carruthers moves from London to Fife to try to win her back. However, very swiftly he’s caught up in a case of intrigue and murder when a young man in the RAF is found dead and a university lecturer’s car is blown up. Suffice to say Carruthers finds his love life has to take a back seat.
  8. My female character, Andrea Fletcher, comes from East Sussex which is where I grew up. I also make her an Arsenal supporter. I often say that she has more of my experiences and Jim Carruthers, my main protagonist, has more of my character.
  9. I was three books in before I realised that each of my novels starts with the dramatic opening of a body which kicks off the police investigation.  It wasn’t a deliberate ploy but it works for me so has become one of my writing devices.
  10. I aim to write fast paced, hard hitting crime thrillers that have a deeply emotional side to the plot. I’m thrilled that I have such wonderful reviews.  Amazon readers have told me they love my strong characters (which was particularly gratifying), the Fife setting and my contemporary plots. In fact I think it was the Writing Garnet that described Care to Die as “hard hitting, spine tingling, severely shocking; an explosion of gripping and emotive words, all in one place. Wowza.” I’ll happily take that.
  11. After years of writing it’s such a thrill when readers tell you they really enjoy your work.  However, I have to say my biggest thrill was when Peter Robinson agreed to endorse my second book in the Jim Carruthers series, Care to Die. It was literally a dream come true.
  12. Care to Die is particularly close to my heart. I wrote it when my mum was recovering from a heart attack and bypass surgery. One of my mentors, Allan Guthrie, suggested I give Carruthers a brother who has a heart attack modelled on what Mum was going through. At the time of writing she’d had seven stents including two failed procedures in two different hospitals and we weren’t sure if she would pull through. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done to incorporate a heart attack into the novel but I agreed to listen to Allan. Mum did indeed pull through and I think it makes the character of Carruthers that bit more vulnerable and authentic.
  13. I am appearing on panels at both Newcastle Noir and Crimefest in Bristol this year and will be attending Harrogate and Bloody Scotland. If you see me do come and introduce yourself. I love meeting writers, bloggers and readers and I’m particularly keen to encourage other writers not to give up on their dreams.  As I’m winding up this piece can I just thank Joanne for agreeing to join my blog tour for Mark of the Devil and say how important our bloggers and readers are to us crime writers.  We really would be lost without you.


Mark of the devil

Order a copy of the book online here: Mark of the Devil
Find out more about Tana at her website

On her Amazon page Tana Collins

Follow her on Twitter: @TanaCollins7

Or check our her Facebook page Tana Collins

About the author 

Edinburgh based Tana Collins is the author of the popular Jim Carruthers detective series set in Fife. Her debut novel, Robbing the Dead, published February 2017, became a No 1 Amazon bestseller for Scottish crime fiction.  Care to Die, the follow up in the series, also became a Top 10 Amazon bestseller. Published on 1st June 2017 Care to Die was described by Peter Robinson, author of DCI Banks,  as  “A finely plotted mystery. Tana Collins racks up the suspense on this one. DI Jim Carruthers is a cop to watch.”  In September 2017 having won one of the coveted Spotlight places at Bloody Scotland Tana supported Lynda La Plante on stage.

Her third novel, Mark of the Devil, is to be published 24th April 2018. Author Leigh Russell writes of it, “A cracking read. The suspense never lets up.”

Tana is a trained Massage Therapist and Stress Management Consultant.

Mark of the Devil – From the back of the book

While Inspector Jim Carruthers and team are busy investigating a series of art thefts they receive an anonymous tip about the body of a young woman on a deserted beach.

The bizarre clues to her identity, and what might have happened to her, include a strange tattoo, a set of binoculars and slab of meat left on the cliffs.

The team’s investigations lead them to a local shooting estate and its wealthy owner Barry Cuthbert. However, Carruthers suspects Cuthbert is not all he seems and the DI soon starts to wonder if the cases of the missing works of art, the dead woman and the estate are connected.

Then when the body of a young gamekeeper is pulled from the sea tensions boil over. The trail of clues lead the team to the unlikely locale of Tallinn and into the sinister world of international crime and police corruption.

Needing answers Carruthers must look further afield than Fife. However, the closer he gets to discovering the truth the more danger he finds himself in.

Since everyone who crosses the vengeful killers seem to end up dead, can Carruthers solve the case with his life intact?


Catch up with others talking about this book


#AuthorInTheSpotlight – Natasha Carthew @riverrunbooks @quercusbooks @natashacarthew

Natasha Carthew (c) Evelyn Kyne (2)

Today I welcome Natasha Carthew to the blog. Her latest novel, All Rivers Run Free, was published by RiverRun on 19th April in hardback and ebook formats. The paperback will follow next year. I’m sure you’ll agree when you see it below, that it has a rather beautiful cover. I have a copy which I plan to read and review in the next month or so. You can order a copy of the book online here or from any good book retailers.

Thanks for joining me Natasha. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in a council house on the south coast of Cornwall and have always taken inspiration from my homeland. I left school at 15 with next to no qualifications and instead of higher education, I embarked on a journey of low paid jobs whilst I worked on my writing career.

I consider myself a Country writer; rural issues, the environment and nature are always at the forefront of my work and I like to tell stories in a lyrical, timeless way. I spend most of my time outside, either hiking or writing in my cabin that I built out of scrap wood.

I live in a cottage in the Cornish countryside with my girlfriend and when I am not writing in my cabin, I can be found climbing the cliff-tops and moors of Cornwall.

What inspired you to start writing?

I have always been a writer; it’s something I have always done without thought. I am inspired by my rural environment and the social injustices that I grew up with as a working class girl.

Tell me about your journey to publication?

From an early age I wrote Poetry and Song Lyrics and had early successes in top UK and US Poetry magazines which led to the publication of two books. I have two Young Adult books published by Bloomsbury Publishing, have been shortlisted for a few awards and I have a third Young Adult novel coming out with Bloomsbury in November.

In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?

All Rivers Run Free by [Carthew, Natasha]

The starting point for writing this book was I wanted to tell a story that dealt with the issue of mental illness, whilst exploring the nature/nurture aspect of why we behave in a certain way.

It is a story about isolation, cruelty and suffering and about healing the past in order to escape the present and subsequently finding peace in the future.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I wanted a title that reflected Ia’s journey downriver toward freedom and liberty.

How did you celebrate publication day?

A big hike, wild camping and a few beers on the beach.

[Sounds wonderful!]

Do you have a work in progress just now?

I do and I can’t wait to get back to it, I love writing!

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

My first book Winter Damage, it has loads of survival advice in it!

Winter Damage by [Carthew, Natasha]

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

On Twitter – @natashacarthew

 Catch up with the rest of the blogtour

Blog tour image

Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball #extract #review #giveaway @eandtbooks @alisonmenziespr

Rebellious Spirits: The Illicit History of Booze in Britain by [Ball, Ruth]

Rebellious Spirits is a book which looks at the history of the secret world of illicit spirits from monks distilling sweetened wine for medicinal purposes to smuggling in Cornwall and from backstreet dealing in London during WW2 to more recent illegal production of spirits. I found myself strangely drawn to the chapter on gin! Being a good Scottish lass though, the chapter on whisky also appealed. – “They’ll Never Take Our Whisky!”. Always an entertaining read, I also learned a lot from this book, not least of which were some rather interesting sounding drinks recipes both historical and modern versions. In the interests of scientific research, I’ll test some of them out and let you know how I get on! However, I might pass on the carrot marmalade cocktail…. This is a great book to dip in and out of, perhaps with the appropriate drink to hand. It was also make a great gift for any spirits connoisseur. (But of course, please drink responsibly!)

I have an extract from the book to share with you about smuggling in the early 19th Century and the somewhat surprising role which some vicars played in aiding the smugglers.

I also have the chance for you to win a copy of the book. Simply comment below telling me your favourite tipple and I’ll use a random name selector to choose a winner. You can enter up until midnight on Monday 23rd April and I’ll contact the winner on Tuesday.

Worse things Happen At Sea – Rebellious Spirits extract

When the war ended with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, returning soldiers started turning to smuggling to make a living. The government stepped up preventative efforts, using their new coastal defences against the smugglers. The Coastal Blockade was established to provide a constant guard over the whole coast from Sheerness to Beachy Head, day and night. It gradually expanded until it covered the whole of the Kent and Sussex coasts and employed almost 3,000 men, all of whom were sent to work in areas away from their homes to reduce collusion. The smugglers disposed of one or two of the new blockade men by removing the stones that they used to mark the cliff edges at night, and some others by more direct means; but more soon took their place. The blockade wasn’t going anywhere, and smuggling techniques were going to have to adapt to the new regime. The era of open landings was at an end, and the time of tricks and sneaking began.

The old riding officers had often been amenable to taking bribes, as was obvious from the fortunes that many mysteriously acquired while on the job. (The riding officer at Herne during the 1730s managed to gain so much wealth that he qualified for a vote, something that was restricted to only the largest landowners.) But attempts to bribe the new blockade officers were trickier to arrange, simply because there were so many more of them, both on land and at sea. A group of smugglers at Rye harbour had succeeded in bribing the two land officers there only to have the HMS Severn unexpectedly arrive, leaving the officers with no choice but to let the ship help them capture the smugglers. The gang were so outraged that they reported the two officers for corruption.

Many ghost stories have their origin around this time – a good story could keep the superstitious away from a smugglers’ hideout, and could also explain away any bumps and scrapes produced by handling kegs. The Palace House at Beaulieu, Hampshire was used as a warehouse by a group of smugglers who put on a regular show of otherworldly screams and clanking chains to keep alive the haunting rumours they had spread. Meanwhile, the vicar at Talland in Cornwall was said to be able to raise and lower the dead, and could often be seen in the graveyard at night swinging incense, surrounded by ghostly figures. The handy table tombs there could easily conceal four or five kegs each. But the prize for the greatest ghost act must go to the man who earned himself the nickname ‘Resurrection’ Jackman for his funereal escapade. After he had been a thorn in their side for years, the Revenue had finally gathered enough evidence to try Jackman, and had come to arrest him. They were met by his tearful family at the door and told that he was dead. Being sensibly suspicious of such a convenient demise, two officers insisted on following the funeral cortege the next night as it made its way to Totnes for the burial of Jackman’s unusually large coffin. It was a dark night and the men must have already been jumpy, because when they saw a hooded figure ride up on a black horse with an unnaturally pale face that looked just like Jackman’s, they fled and did not return. ‘Resurrection’ Jackman had covered himself in flour, and gone out play his own ghost.

Vicars were often involved in local schemes; a vicar, knowing his congregation well, would usually accept that smuggling was one of the only ways they could make a living. The Reverend Patten of Whitstable even took a tithe from the proceeds of smuggling, as he would have from any profession. He turned in one band only because they refused to pay. The clergy’s role was generally a passive one of helping by turning a blind eye – or, like the rector Phillip Meadows in Suffolk, leaving the door to his stable open so that the smugglers could borrow his carriage. The cooperation of one vicar on the isle of Purbeck was inadvertently revealed when the ceiling of the knave gave way during a service, showering the audience with kegs. Meanwhile, at Hove, the parson seemed genuinely unaware of the use smugglers were making of his church. He had two parishes, Preston and St Andrews, and would preach at them on alternate Sundays; but when one week he mixed up his schedule and arrived at the wrong church, he found a congregation of kegs waiting for him in the pews.

There were plenty of other hiding places, apart from churches and graveyards. Pubs were obvious candidates, since they were often the final destination for much of the cargo. Some historic hiding places still survive as interesting features, such as the hidden shaft that runs all the way from the ground to the roof at the Spread Eagle pub in Witham, Essex. It once had no openings except on the roof, and smugglers would lower kegs down on ropes; but it now has a small window cut in at bar level, to show it off to visitors. In the Hastings Arms (in, unsurprisingly, Hastings, East Sussex), a keg could be installed underneath a window ledge on the first floor and connected by a pipe to a tap above the bar for discreet retailing. The last keg is still in place, although not in use.

Farms could also provide good storage places, such as basements with entrances concealed by stables or fireplaces. Both would be difficult for the Revenue to get to in a hurry if the fire was lit or the horse had a temper. The basement at Colne Farm had its entrance hidden behind a kiln, and the raid that uncovered it recovered eighty chests of tea, 140 ankers of brandy and 200 bales of tobacco. Haystacks and dungheaps might also be used to hide kegs, either directly or by masking access to an underground store. These arrangements could be perilous: the dung gave off large quantities of carbon dioxide as it fermented in the sun, and the gas could sink down and fill the store. When a group of smugglers opened up their own secret chamber beneath a dungheap in Coldfair Green, they didn’t leave enough time for the gas to dissipate before they went down; all three men passed out, and two of them never woke again.

Thanks to Alison Menzies for my copy of the book. Rebellious Spirits is published by Elliott & Thompson Books and is available now in all formats. The paperback is really beautiful and I’d recommend buying that from your local book retailer. Or you can order a copy online here: Rebellious Spirits

From the back of the book

A delicious history of the secret, exciting and often dangerous world of illicit spirits

For as long as spirits have existed, there has been someone doing something really naughty with them: selling gin through pipes in a London back alley; standing guard on a Cornish clifftop waiting for a smuggler’s signal; or dodging bombs and shrapnel running whisky in the Blitz. It is a history that is thrilling, utterly fascinating and uniquely British. 

Packed full of historical recipes, from Milk Punch to a Wartime Martini, along with cocktails fromcontemporary bartenders, Rebellious Spirits is a treasure trove for the curious drinker.

From the gin dispensed from a cat’s paw at the Puss and Mew shop which could have been the world’s first vending machine, to whole funeral cortèges staged just to move a coffin filled with whisky, the stories show off all the wonderful wit and ingenuity required to stay one drink ahead of the law. The accompanying recipes are just as intriguing: How did we drink gin before tonic? Was punch really made with curdled milk? Or breakfast served with brandy porridge, and gin mixed into hot ale? What did the past really taste like?

Ruth Ball

Ruth Ball is related to Admiral Edward Vernon, the man who invented grog as a way to serve the rum ration to the navy in 1740. She grew up in the Peak District, and studied Chemistry at Imperial College London. After graduating, she realised Heston Blumenthal didn’t have a graduate programme for scientists, and so founded Alchemist Dreams, a company dedicated to making handmade liqueurs blended to order. In researching traditional spirit-making Ruth found that many of the best sources came from the wrong side of the law – and this book was born.

Follow the rest of the tour by visiting the other blogs taking part

RebSp blog tour poster.indd

Ghost by Helen Grant #review @HelenGrantSays @FledglingPress @lovebooksgroup

Ghost: The new, chilling novel from award-winning author, Helen Grant by [Grant, Helen]

Despite the title of this book, Ghost is not a scary story as such, but still has that kind of chilling atmosphere you get with a ghost story. Augusta lives with her grandmother in Langlands House, a large, decrepit sounding place hidden deep in the Scottish countryside. With no other relatives, she relies completely on her grandmother to look after her. To keep her safe, her grandmother insists that she hides away on the rare occasions that anyone comes to the house. When Tom and his father come to do some repairs Augusta, daringly, makes contact with Tom. Soon after, her grandmother goes to town one day to collect supplies but doesn’t return. Just when Augusta is beginning to wonder how she will cope, Tom comes back again and their meeting will change her life. 

Ghost was a book which I was glued to while I was reading it. I couldn’t wait to find out exactly what was happening with the grandmother and Augusta and why Augusta had to be hidden away. It was fascinating to read about their way of life in this house with no running water, no electricity and no contact with the outside world. As I read, I began to have my suspicions of what had been happening, most of which were confirmed, but there was so much more to discover. It may seem odd that a young girl would believe what she was told without questioning but this was someone with no contact with the outside world whatsoever and given plausible reasons why this should be the case. She had no reason to think that her grandmother, the only person she had in the world, the person who looked after her, would lie. When Tom arrives in Augusta’s life, it is fair to say that he shows her a very different version of the world than that which she is used to. Tom was a lovely character who really wanted to help though I felt he made some rather naive decisions but then with Augusta only just about to turn 18, I suppose he was rather young too.

There was a really claustrophobic feel throughout the book. Augusta’s world is very limited with the house and its grounds being all she knows. Langlands House with all its creaks and groans is most definitely a significant character in itself. It felt like it was keeping a watchful eye over Augusta, guarding the secrets of the past. In a way, the book reminded me very much of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It was an intense and broodingly atmospheric novel. 

I went to the Edinburgh launch last week and it was interesting to hear about how the author’s love of abandoned old houses was the inspiration for the story. Having now read the book, I can also say she did a very good job of keeping the secrets of the story – just as Langlands House itself guards the secrets of its past and present. 

Thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for inviting me on the tour and for my copy of the book. Ghost was published in paperback and as an e-book by Fledgling Press on 19th February. You can order a copy online here: Ghost

From the back of the book

Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think.

Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between – everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone. Then Tom McAllister arrives – good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart.

As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?

In the end, Langlands House and its inhabitants hold more secrets than they did in the beginning…


Helen Grant

Helen Grant writes thrillers with a Gothic flavour and ghost stories. Her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and won an ALA Alex Award in the US. Her other books include the exciting Forbidden Spaces trilogy. 

Helen’s latest novel Ghost (Fledgling Press 2018) is set in Perthshire, where she has lived since 2011. When she is not writing, Helen loves to research the lost country houses of Scotland and to visit the sites where possible. Her experiences of exploring these fascinating places inspired her to write Ghost. 
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Songs by Dead Girls by Lesley Kelly #review @lkauthor @sandstonepress @rkbookpublicist #songsbydeadgirls

Songs by Dead Girls (A Health of Strangers Thriller) by [Kelly, Lesley]

Well I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with the Health Enforcement Team again in this second Health of Strangers novel. In case you haven’t read the first book (and it’s only £1 for Kindle at the time of writing so get yourself a copy) you need to know that a virus has spread worldwide, a virus which is killing many of people who contract it. In an effort to contain it, all kinds of regulations have been put in place including the need for people to carry a Green Card. Without the card, you can’t access vital services, enter buildings or even buy food. To get the Green Card you must attend regular monthly health checks. Miss your check and you will find yourself labelled a defaulter and can expect a visit from the Health Enforcement Team.

In this book, Mona and Paterson (aka the Guv) are on an under the radar mission in London tracking down a leading virologist who is rather surprisingly at risk of missing his health check. Meanwhile back in Edinburgh, Bernard is reluctantly under the temporary command of Maitland and with partner Carole is looking for a missing girl who it seems may be a prostitute. Throw in a drug dealer who may have connections to the missing girl and who is looking to expand his empire and the scene is set for more adventures for the HET, perhaps rather more excitement than they would like.

What I enjoyed most about this book, as with the first, is the banter between the characters. Despite the sometimes difficult situations they find themselves in, real danger at times, there is always an undercurrent of dry humour. The story alternates between the action in Edinburgh with Bernard and the investigation in London with Mona. I have to say that Lesley Kelly has done a brilliant job of creating mini cliffhangers throughout the book so that each chapter ended with me wanting to know what happens next but having to wait until the next part about those characters. It’s quite a skill to be able to keep that up throughout an entire novel I feel. It was good to get more of a feel for the characters outwith their working lives too and I particularly liked the scenes with Mona and her mum which were down to earth yet tender. Bernard is someone I feel sorry for and am fond of in equal measure as he goes about his work conscientiously but despondently, knowing how disliked he and his colleagues are. And special mention must also go to Theresa, the Professor’s assistant, also known as Maggie. She is a brilliant addition to this book and although I suspect we might not see her again, I harbour a hope that we might.

Songs by Dead Girls is a thoroughly entertaining read which rattles along at a lively pace. It’s witty and full of brilliant characters you will both love and love to hate. A sneak preview at the end of the book has me looking forward to the third book in the series (Death at the Plague Museum) and catching up with Bernard, Mona et al very soon.

My thanks to Ruth Killick for my copy of the book and inviting me to take part in the blogtour. Songs By Dead Girls is published by Sandstone Press in paperback and ebook formats and available now from book retailers. You can order a Kindle copy online here: Songs by Dead Girls

From the back of the book

When Scotland’s leading virologist goes missing, Mona and Paterson from the Health Enforcement Team are dispatched to London to find him. In a hot and unwelcoming city, Mona has to deal with a boss who isn’t speaking to her, placate the Professor’s over-bearing assistant, and outwit the people who will stop at nothing to make sure the academic stays lost. Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh, Bernard is searching for a missing prostitute, while Maitland is trying to keep the Chair of the Parliamentary Virus Committee from finding out quite how untidy the HET office is.

Follow the rest of the tour by visiting the other blogs taking part

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Lesley Kelly

Lesley Kelly has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the past twenty years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She has won a number of writing competitions, including the Scotsman’s Short Story award in 2008. Her first novel, A Fine House in Trinity, was long-listed for the McIlvanney Prize. Her second novel, The Health of Strangers, was published in June 2017 by Sandstone Press.

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